I drove into Grants today to run errands – post office, laundromat, bank, groceries, phone calls – and thought I’d have time to do some exploring down New Mexico Route 53 that goes to the Ice Caves and Bandera Volcano, and El Morro (“The Headland”). So I bought gas, picked up my mail, went to the bank, bought the groceries, made the phone calls (spent a lot of money!!!), and stopped at McDonald’s around 1:00 p.m. for a burger and restroom visit. By the time I finished my lunch it occurred to me that I only had so much daylight to explore, and the laundromat stayed open into the evening.
I decided that the laundry could wait, and headed down the highway, looking for adventure…About 25 miles later I pulled into a dirt road, following the signs to “Ice Caves”. The caves and the volcano are privately owned and one takes a ‘self-guided’ tour to the sites, after paying the $10 entry fee.
The day was quite warm, and the nearby sign on the highway said the Continental Divide was at 7882 feet elevation. I must admit I struggled to make it to the volcano, uphill for two-thirds of the way, about a half mile total, one way. I did pace myself and rested at almost every place there was a bench – unfortunately, few of them were in the shade.
I stopped occasionally to take photos as well, some of which I’ve posted here. I love how the landscape was formed by all the lava spewing out of the earth. It is quite rugged, and beautiful. Bandera Volcano is one of about 29 volcanoes in the area. It was a little hazy to see many of them for photographing, so I didn’t take any photos of the horizon; you can see the ‘dots’ of the other volcanoes from the trail. (I’ve posted an album of photos from this trip on my facebook page.) I was told it would take about an hour to see both sites; however, I think it took me an hour or more to complete the round trip to the volcano.
After a rest in the shade at the Trading Post, I walked in the other direction to the Ice Caves. Actually, there is one main ice cave that stays at a constant 31 degrees. As one walks down the steps to the mouth of the cave, even on a warm day like today, the temperature drops dramatically. The ice at the floor level is approximately 20 feet thick. It is green, from an Arctic algae. The moss on the rocks approaching the cave are rare Alpine mosses; the green and orange colors are lichen.
After climbing back up the multitude of wood steps, I walked back to the Trading Post that was built in the 1930s during railroad activity for logging. I got a nice cool drink and headed for El Morro, and a campground I heard was nice, that I wanted to check out. About another 25 miles later I came to El Morro, a very large sandstone formation that was visited by the Zuni Indians, the Spanish, and later Anglos. There is a pool at the bottom, and ‘graffiti’ from these visitors has been carved into the wall – petroglyphs, and the names of Spanish explorers, U. S. Cavalry officers, and others. The inscriptions were recorded by Lt. James H. Simpson and artist Richard Kern; Simpson gave the place the name “Inscription Rock”. I may have to make another trip to see the inscriptions, but I’d had enough hiking for one day.
The campground at El Morro is small and doesn’t have water at the sites, or electricity. I think sites can be reserved, so as an alternative to staying in the New Mexico State Parks, it’s probably not as amenable to spontaneous decisions. The price is right, though – $5 a night. And what a pleasant view of El Morro!
I turned around from there and headed the 50 or so miles back to Grants, and then another 25 to Bluewater Lake CG. I got home around 6:00 p.m., exhausted. The laundry will have to wait until I make errands next week. (I hope I have enough underwear to last til then!)
Tonight the laundry sits where I put it this morning – in the passenger side of the truck…